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In Memoriam: E.L. Doctorow

E. L. DoctorowEdgar Lawrence “E. L.” Doctorow (January 6, 1931 – July 21, 2015) was an American author best known internationally for his works of historical fiction.

Doctorow was born in the Bronx, the son of second-generation Americans of Russian Jewish extraction who named him after Edgar Allan Poe. His father ran a small music shop. He attended the Bronx High School of Science where, surrounded by mathematically gifted children, he fled to the office of the school literary magazine, Dynamo. He published his first literary effort, “The Beetle,” in it, which he describes as ”a tale of etymological self-defamation inspired by my reading of Kafka.”

He returned to New York after graduating from Kenyon College in Ohio and completing his military service and took a job as a reader for a motion picture company, where he said he had to read so many Westerns that he was inspired to write what became his first novel, Welcome to Hard Times. He began it as a parody of western fiction, but it evolved to be a serious reclamation of the genre before he was finished. It was published to positive reviews in 1960.

In 1969, Doctorow left publishing to pursue a writing career. He accepted a position as Visiting Writer at the University of California, Irvine, where he completed The Book of Daniel (1971), a freely fictionalized consideration of the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for giving nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It was widely acclaimed. 

Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction (also won by Billy Bathgate) and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction (also won by Ragtime and Billy Bathgate), a finalist for the National Book Award (won by World’s Fair) and the Pulitzer Prize, The March (2005) was widely recognized as a signature book, treated by critics as the climactic work of a career. It is a fictionalization of the Civil War campaign of General William T. Sherman.

“Someone said to me once that my books can be arranged in rough chronological order to indicate one man’s sense of 120 years of American life,” Mr. Doctorow said on the publication of “City of God.”

Ina Rimpau

Posted by Barbara | 23 Jul 2015 | Comments Off on In Memoriam: E.L. Doctorow

Summer Reading Club Week 2

Each week we are asking participants in our Escape the Ordinary Summer Reading Club for adults to share thoughts on their reading.  In the second week, we asked,  “Write a short review of a book you recently read and enjoyed.” We’ve got lots of great reviews to share:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: One of the best books I have ever read. I’d never read it before. It’s so full and rich and so much happens to evoke this time in Alabama history.

The Racketeer by John Grisham was a book that I really enjoyed. The plot was phenomenal. It had many twists that kept me reading. I loved the characters, settings, everything. I recommend this book to all who like a good thrilling book.

Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora: Do you ever walk through an affluent neighborhood and wonder about the lives of those who live there? This is a brilliant collection of interconnected short stories examining the fascinating, bizarre and somewhat dark lives of the residents of Old Cranbury, Connecticut. I didn’t know if I should shake my head or laugh at the characters, but did know that I wanted to keep reading.

Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich: As usual, it was a fun, fast read with Stephanie Plum again getting into trouble trying to find a patient who disappeared from the hospital and helping her friend Ranger out with security, to a disastrous end.

The Passage by Justin Cronin: The first of an apocalyptic trilogy of stories. An engaging book that follows a child, Amy, through a difficult childhood and an even more difficult tween period. Also follows 11 death row prisoners who are given a second chance to help society. Excellent story.

Little Big Lies by Liane Moriarty: I enjoyed the plot and characters. This book nicely combined mystery with interesting character development. Set in Australia, it was a great summer read.

The Martian by Andy Weir; Not only great Sci-Fi,  but great reading. The reader is along for the story of an astronaut stranded on Mars when a storm happens and his colleagues think he’s dead. Read it before it comes to the cinema later this year!

The Courtesan Duchess by Joanna Shupe; Joanna is South Orange’s Danielle Steele. I loved the love and intrigue. It was fun to read. It makes you feel good.

The Appetites of Girls by Pamela Moses; This book gives the background and subsequent struggles of 4 college roommates and their issues with family and struggles with body image. Written in an accessible, interesting manner. Highly readable.

A History of Loneliness by John Boyne; This was a great look at the evolution of priests within the Catholic Church in Ireland. It seemed unbiased and unfolded slowly. It was haunting.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is a real page turner and well written. (The author) cleverly overlaps the husband’s and wife’s narratives and surprises the reader at nearly every turn.

Privilege: A Reader by Kimmel and Ferber; I thought this book was relatable and accessible for readers from different backgrounds. The book also provides questions after each chapter to make (you) think and hopefully learn to look at the whole through a different lens.

Something Great by M. Clarke; A great story about a couple (who) overcame their fears of being different; (she) from a middle class family and he from a rich, self-made family. They get through all obstacles that threaten to break them apart. It’s a page turner; you will not be bored.

A Love Supreme: Real Life Stories of Black Love by TaRessa and Calvin Stovall is a great book. I liked this book because it has different stories from happily married black couples. The ups and downs, the good and bad. I learned more about people who are married. The book has a story about General Colin Powell, who is my hero, and how he met his wife, Amy, on a blind date.


Posted by Barbara | 20 Jul 2015 | Comments Off on Summer Reading Club Week 2

Escape the Ordinary Summer Reading Club

Our Summer Reading Club for adults is going on all summer–there’s still time to join!  Each week we are asking participants to tell us about their about their reading, and we’ll be posting their responses on this blog.  In the first week, we asked, “Who is your favorite hero in literature? What makes this person a hero?”  Here are some responses:

Arthur Dent, of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; He kept going, even thinking he was the last human, facing obstacles in an alien environment, adapting, making friends…

Isabel, from Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson; Isabel (and the real people like her from that time) is a hero because without her strength and courage where would we (African Americans) be? Needless to say, slavery in America was a horrible institution, and I often wonder how my ancestors continued to live each day in bondage. Isabel showed me how her devotion to her sister, to family is moving.

Mercy Thompson, from the novels by Patricia Briggs; strong woman fights the bad guys on her own terms.

Tess, from Tess of the d’Urbervilles; She is a hero because she stays true to her values in a desperate world.

My hero in literature is Professor X Charles Xavier, founder of the X Men. He not only has the coolest power (mind control), he also represents handicapped people like myself.

The father, from The Road by Cormac McCarthy; He keeps his brave face on for his son in the face of a truly unimaginable America. He manages to do so until he dies and his son is able to carry on with a new family.

Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; A great man who was not only a hero to his kids but also to the black community in Maycomb. He took on a case that on one else wanted, to help an innocent black man when he was accused of raping a white woman.

Jane Eyre; She was a pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps type of girl.

Severus Snape, from the Harry Potter series. I knew from the beginning that he was a good man; that beneath his arrogance there was a wounded soul. The danger he put himself into, and the courage with which he faced it, all because of his love for Lily, makes his character truly complex and memorable.


Posted by Barbara | 13 Jul 2015 | Comments Off on Escape the Ordinary Summer Reading Club

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